Wind Howling, Heart Trembling

 A vicious pack of banshees. This is what a northeast wind at gale force sounds like.

Occasionally, Malta certainly gets hurtled and hurt by this terrible force of nature. Monday night was such a night and to say that I was disturbed is an understatement. More so since I’ve got a hairline crack in my rubber sealing to my bedroom’s balcony door that undoes the whole point of having double glazing. It’s all my fault for I’ve been wanting to have it repaired for more than a couple of years. But it’s one of those items on my ‘to do’ list which has been relegated to the bottom of priorities and I know full well that only reaching critical point will get me having it repaired.

The consequence? A night of tossing and turning axing any hope of replenishing, tranquil sleep.

Worse still, the howling wind and whipping rain perfectly reflected my current inner turbulence.  In literature, the stylistic device of projecting something external like the weather, landscape, seascape, or even the mood of a room mirror feelings is known as pathetic fallacy. Although the use pathetic fallacy can be cliched, at its most extreme it revs up into sublimation, meaning a storm in the heavens perfectly embodies and distills a raving, ranting heart.

With this in mind, a few days down the line I deliberately fished out one of my favourite Ted Hughes poems, aptly called ‘Wind’ which goes like this:


This house has been far out at sea all night,
The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up –
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guy rope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,
Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.

~Ted Hughes (1930-1998)

That Hughes was inspired to write about wind is not breaking news. As a Yorkshire man, he was born and bred in a wind blasted county – the very same ‘wuthering heights’ that infused the novels of the Brontë sisters. His poetry is therefore rooted in the violence of nature which he breathed and which moulded him into a later day Romantic utterly awed by the mixture of beauty and savagery in the animal world. In fact, animals serve as a metaphor for his own view of life which he saw as an ongoing struggle because he believed in the concept of the survival of the fittest and a no-nonsense attitude. Consequently, it is no surprise to see a fiery overtone and a raw energy as two of his most characteristic traits.

The West Riding dialect of his childhood inspired the concrete, terse yet extremely powerful and effective diction which stamps his work. His later poems deeply absorbed the influence of myths through which he kept on exploring the deeper recesses of the human mind, particularly the dark sub-conscious or deep recess of our psyche.

‘Wind’ depicts a menacing gale that rages all night and day spews its ferocity on a house which stands in the middle of nowhere. The poet makes use of very vivid imagery and other poetic devices to describe the intensity and power of the storm leaving us in no doubt of the overwhelming violence in nature.

The opening line “This house has been far out at sea all night” dramatically projects an image of an utterly isolated and vulnerable house. The simple yet striking metaphor of being “far out at sea” makes us picture the house like a flimsy boat being tossed, pounded and smashed in a stormy sea. The following metaphor, “winds stampeding the fields” describes the wild, unstoppable energy of the thunderous wind. ‘This is rendered doubly effective with the use animal connotations and of onomatopoeia in “The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills” as well as the alliteration of the insidious /s/ and harsh /ing/ and echoing /b/ sounds throughout the first stanza. Therefore, from the start Hughes emphasizes how both the house and the surrounding landscape are totally at the mercy of nature.

By pointing to the window, the persona also makes us visualize the link between the inside and outside of the house.

The sensations of danger, violence and vulnerability are also evoked through the window personified into a “floundering” and weeping creature; foreshadowing the window at the very end which appears to “tremble to come in”. Anyone familiar with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, will note an echo of the novel’s opening pages.  By pointing to the window, the persona also makes us visualize the link between the inside and outside of the house. Significantly, the run-on line between the first two stanzas shows that the storm continues well into the day, so that daybreak (“Till day rose”) brings no hope of calm. The same can be said for all the run-on lines throughout the poem.

In fact, the morning sky is “orange” signifying violence. The surreal imagery conveys the scale of destruction and devastation – “The hills had new places”. The cutting continuous to create havoc: “the wind wielded/Blade-light, luminous black and emerald.” The alliteration of ‘s’ and ‘d’ in the second stanza keep up the impact of harsh aural imagery. Yet, although we are made to see the lashing wind “flexing like the lens of mad eye”, the colour imagery also imparts a sensation of beauty mixed with terror. This is a typical Romantic image which Hughes is famous for.

By noon, the persona plucks up enough courage to go outside and survey the scene. He  gets as far as the “coal-house”; but this is enough to feel “the brunt of the wind that dented the balls of [his] eyes”. More drama is created when he looks up and sees the devastated hill tops which he describes metaphorically as a tent which “drummed and strained its guy rope”.

Another run-on line links the third and fourth stanza once again portraying the ongoing windstorm. Hughes now personifies the skyline – “a grimace” looking over the “quivering fields”. The bird imagery which follows is important to note because the magpie symbolizes unpredictability to tie in with the unpredictability of nature while the black gull injects an ominous note through its black colour. The fact that the wind bends these two utterly free creatures “like an iron bar slowly” proves the might of the wind.

The last two stanzas focus once more on the house battered by the gale storm. More onomatopoeia occurs in the simile:

The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note

That any second would shatter it.

The persona, who we realize is not alone in the house, finds no comfort by gazing into the fire. On the contrary, the people who live here are too much on edge to read a book or share their thoughts. Terror grips their heart as they “feel the roots of the house move” and hear “the stones cry out under the horizons”. The house can be destroyed at any moment. The atmosphere of danger is now also one of helplessness and defeat and despair. Human beings are utterly insignificant when compared to the brutal power in nature.

The poem’s vivid visual and aural imagery is underlined by an equally effective turbulent and frenzied/agitated tone. The wind is even superior to the fire. The use of blank verse adds to the dramatic impact of the gale storm.

At a deeper level the windstorm sublimates the conflict, upheaval and turmoil in the poet’s life. Once again, an autobiographical slant is investable since Hughes’ love life was both eventful and harrowing. He married fellow poet, the American Sylvia Plath in 1956. Their happiness was short lived and the troubled marriage (aggravated by her bouts of depression and his infidelity) came to a tragic end when she committed suicide in 1963 when she was only 30 years old. Six years later, Assia Wevil who he had fallen for and supplanted Plath, killed herself and their four-year old daughter in the same horrifying way.

For a long time afterwards, Hughes was hounded by feminists who regarded him as the culprit of Plath’s early death.  Although he seems to have found happiness again in his second marriage to Carol Orchard in 1970, the tragedy of his personal life hung heavily over him and the press coverage he got in this regard tended to overshadow his literary achievements which included children’s writing and translations of European plays.  His last poetic work is an anthology entitled Birthday Letters which was published close to his death.   These poems delved into the complex relationship with Plath and come across as an attempt to set the record straight before dying.

I believe that this complexity lies at the core of this poem. The couple alluded to towards the end of the poem are unable to comfort each other because what once bonded them is no more. As they confront their terror of nature at it most destructive, they are confronting the death of their togetherness. And what can be worse that feeling alone when you are meant to be an item? Their emotional storm is in fact still unfurling although they feel isolated and bashed just like the house in the windstorm.

A relationship undone by infidelity certainly strikes home in Hughes’ case. Yet as devastating as it is, what leads to unfaithfulness is part of the immense complexity that sparks, sustains and sears relationships. I believe that the love between a man and a woman is not a matter of two halves completing a circle or of some sort of reconciliation, but a matter of complementary circles pirouetting on the concentric ones of togetherness.

The breaking of this togetherness unleashes a storm like no other.


Noemi Zarb
Noemi Zarb
Writing, teaching, marketing. I have pursued three totally different career paths with the power of words serving both as link and lynchpin. Now I dedicate most of my time to writing - a never-ending romance. Typical of content writing I have been and am still responsible for scripting webs, advertorials as well as full-length articles. As a feature/opinion writer, I have over 600 articles published in Malta's leading newspapers and magazines (and still counting) - an experience which honed my interviewing skills when I interviewed countless painters and people involved in the performance arts. I also have over two decades of teaching English Literature and Critical Thinking via Textual Analysis under my belt having prepared students for the IB Diploma in English Language and Literature as well as MATSEC, IGCSE and SEC examinations in English language and English Literature. TEFL sometimes punctuated my summer holidays. Dealing with young people keeps you young and I have truckloads of cherished memories of my past students My current writing continues to be inspired by what life throws at me together with my critical thinking of what goes on (or doesn’t) around me firing my sense perception and vice versa. Being immersed in the corporate world gives me endless opportunities to observe facets of human behavior which invariably have me brood over. Learning and thinking over what I learn is still my way forward.

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  1. edward kiersh

    the wind is howling, the storm is upon us–so true to life today–but here is writing by two poets–one is named HUGHES, the other is ZARB–of course Hughes isa master of depicting the savagery/beauty of storm, much like BLAKE and TURNER–BUT ZARB is also picture perfect in describing his troubled relationship with famed poetess SYLVIA PLATH and Nature’s cruel havoc (seemingly a metaphor for the tumultuous relationship between the two poets). As Zarb writes “I believe that the love between a man and a woman is not a matter of two halves completing a circle or of some sort of reconciliation, but a matter of complementary circles pirouetting on the concentric ones of togetherness”–and this is the kernel truth of her writing, one that must be reflected upon, tossed about in the mind, and absorbed according to one’s own relationship to LOVE. For that we are indebted to ZARB, for sharing HUGHES with us, and provoking our thoughts

    • Thank you ever so much, Edward, for your time and appreciation. I am both honoured and overwhelmed with your comments, yet I still feel that praise is due to Hughes.

  2. Another deep insight and comprehensive approach of Ms Noemi. She included so many factors and prominent writters in order to make the topic as much readable as possible to all types of her audience. I have really enjoyed in every minut reading this article.

    • Nermin, I am so glad that Hughes’ poem resonated with you. Thank you so much for your time and appreciation.

  3. Noemi, Thank you for your words. You were able to connect Natural events, like a strong storm, to our human feelings in a very deep way. Your written interaction with Hughes’s poem is surprising, fascinating and thoughts provoking. An Amazing reading that drives me back to Nature and memories. Thank you! Brilliant article

    • Thank you ever so much, Dalila, for your time and appreciation. Wonderful to hear that Hughes’ beautiful poem drove you back to nature and memories. When you think about it, being in tune with nature and cherishing our memories – whatever they may be – are intrinsic to our spirituality.

  4. Sarà forse perché ho letto la tua introduzione stando alla scrivania mentre era l’una di notte e fuori pioveva, o forse il modo in cui l’hai espressa…
    Il fatto è che ho avuto e vissuto in quel momento un turbinio di emozioni e un’esigenza quasi vorace di leggere e immergermi… con quell’atmosfera che mi colpisce, voglioso di vivere in un ambiente così da me tanto desiderato, soltanto per aver modo di calarmi in piena simbiosi tra le mie turbolenze interiori e questo tipo di natura che vorrei mi circondasse…
    Non sono in possesso di una conoscenza che mi consenta di capire gli strumenti poetici utilizzati da Ted Hughes, so solo che mi ha preso la voglia di iniziare ad approfondire e cercare di comprendere per me il senso celato di questa bellissima poesia… e iniziare la lettura del romanzo di Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, finora conoscendo solo, e amando, la canzone scritta e interpretata da Kate Bush…
    Continuando poi a leggere la tua descrizione e i tuoi commenti, più leggevo e apprezzavo e più mi piaceva stare dietro ed entrare nel senso di quanto hai espresso, in modo quasi vorticoso…
    Grazie Noemi!

    • COURTESY TRANSLATION FOR OUR READERS: Maybe it is because I read your introduction at the desk while it was one in the morning and it was raining outside, or maybe the way you expressed it …
      The fact is that at that moment I had a whirlwind of emotions and an almost voracious need to read and immerse myself … with that atmosphere that strikes me, eager to live in an environment so much desired by me, only to have way to lower myself in full symbiosis between my inner turbulence and this kind of nature that I would like to surround me …
      I do not have a knowledge that allows me to understand the poetic tools used by Ted Hughes, I only know that he has taken the desire to start to deepen and try to understand for me the hidden meaning of this beautiful poem … and start reading of the novel by Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, so far knowing only, and loving, the song written and performed by Kate Bush …
      Then continuing to read your description and your comments, the more I read and appreciated, the more I liked to stay behind and enter into the sense of what you expressed, in an almost whirling way …

    • Clauidio, dici di non conoscere gli strumenti poetici che Hughes utilizza nella sua bellissima poesia. Eppure i tuoi commenti dicono diversamente perché l’hai interiorizzato nel modo più completo e continui a cercare altro. ‘Wuthering Heights’ va oltre un romanzo straordinario e il suo potere rivetterà il nucleo stesso del tuo essere.

      Il tuo apprezzamento e’ molto sentito. Grazie di cuore.

    • COURTESY TRANSLATION FOR OUR VISITORS: Clauidio, you say you don’t know the poetic tools that Hughes uses in his beautiful poetry. Yet your comments say otherwise because you have internalized it in the most complete way and continue to look for something else. ‘Wuthering Heights’ goes beyond an extraordinary novel and its power will rivet the very core of your being.

      Your appreciation is very much felt. Thank you so much.

  5. Wow, what a stunning article! Your analysis of the Hughes poem was beautiful – because you bring to light elements that I can appreciate and relish, but often don’t recognize unless it’s pointed out. Then, it’s like I’ve suddenly got lenses to clearly see and feel the poem, not just read its words.

    And, I love your closing lines: “I believe that the love between a man and a woman is not a matter of two halves completing a circle or of some sort of reconciliation, but a matter of complementary circles pirouetting on the concentric ones of togetherness. The breaking of this togetherness unleashes a storm like no other.” Beautifully said.

    • Thank you so much, Elena, for your time and warm praise. I was actually hesitant to post this because it is bound to add sulphur to old and new wounds. Yet at the same time, harrowing situations need to be faced.

    • You are so right that open communication underlined by listening ears is the key to intimate relations. Apart from nourishing personal happiness and serenity, the impact on society is tremendous. FO r society is no abstraction but a sum of myriad families, communities, regions and larger ripples. Society is sick when families are sick. Thank you JP for your time and appreciation.

  6. Parole che fanno vivere la tempesta “dentro”.
    La mia mente è tornata a vecchie sensazioni di ansia e agitazione. Nel 2013 la Sardegna è stata investita dal ciclone Cleopatra. Non ho potuto fare a meno, leggendo la poesia, di ripensare a me stessa, in quel pomeriggio nefasto, inchiodata alla finestra della mansarda. Sono salita nel punto più alto della casa, impaurita ed attratta da ciò che avevo capito stava per accedere. Volevo osservare, ma il vento e la pioggia non lo pernettevano. Avevo paura, ma scorgere qualcosa era in quel momento importante. L’acqua ed il vento avvolgevano tutto, erano padroni di tutto. Case, strade, alberi e colline. Il cielo e l’aria erano fusi, nuvole nere e terra non si distinguevano. Ciò che osservavo non si poteva fermare. Non durò una notte, ma poco più di un ora interminabile.
    Leggendo la poesia e le sue parole, ho rivissuto tutto. Tutto il potere della natura, che è in parte fascino, in parte terrore e tutte le mie tempeste interiori che poco si differenziano quando “il vento” agita i sentimenti.
    Grazie Noemi!

    • Mi duole sentire della tua pena dentro ed anche nelle memorie dell’urlo di una natura savaggia. Ammetto che questo pezzo era rischioso perche’ confrontare l’angoscia non e’ mai facile. Ma devo anche dire che una pena vissuta (sempre quando e’ accettata senza rancore e amarezza) ci da una sensitivita’ autentica e una forza di umilta’. Grazie mille Maria Patrizia, per le tue parole molto sentite. Buona domenica .

    • COURTESY TRANSLATION FOR OUR READERS: I am sorry to hear of your pain inside and also in the memories of the scream of a savage nature. I admit that this piece was risky because confronting anxiety is never easy. But I must also say that a lived pain (always when accepted without bitterness and rancor) gives us an authentic sensitivity and a humble strength. Thank you very much Maria Patrizia, for your heartfelt words. Have a nice Sunday .